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Oral history interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005

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Creator:Delany, Lemuel, 1920-
Creator:Hill, Kimberly (Kimberly DeJoie)
Creator:Delany, Esther
Title:Oral history interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005
Date:2005 July 15

Lemuel Delany was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1920 into a prominent African American family. The son of a doctor and a speech teacher, Delany describes growing up in the "black world" of segregated Raleigh and his growing awareness of racial discrimination as he grew older. In discussing his formative years, Delany offers information about race relations in the segregated South, his family's history dating back to the colonial era, and his family's interactions with an African American "who's who. " After finishing high school, Delany stayed in Raleigh for a few years, working as a garbage man and as a lifeguard. Because of the lack of economic opportunities, Delany moved to New York in 1942, where he lived in Harlem. Delany remained in New York for nearly sixty years before resettling in Raleigh. In New York, he worked briefly in a factory before establishing a career as a funeral director. Having spent considerable time in both the North and the South over the course of the twentieth century, Delany draws comparisons between the nature of segregation and race relations in both regions. In addition, he devotes considerable attention to a discussion of his reaction to Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, a book written by his aunts Sarah Louise "Sadie" Delany and Annie Elizabeth "Bessie" Delany. Delany argues that his aunts' book obscured the accomplishments of the entire Delany family by focusing too narrowly on their own lives. As he sees it, the "real" story about his family is one of upward mobility, beginning with an enslaved ancestor who established a name for himself following his emancipation. Finally, Delany offers his thoughts on the civil rights movement, arguing that the negative consequences of desegregation as seen in the demise of black economic, educational, and social institutions far outweighed its benefits. He further maintains that the NAACP failed to support African American enterprise.

The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the aggregation and enhancement of partner metadata.

Types:Transcripts | Sound recordings | Oral histories
Subjects:Delany, Lemuel, 1920- | Delany, Sarah Louise, 1889-1999 | Delany, Esther | African American men--North Carolina--Raleigh | African American families--North Carolina | African Americans--North Carolina--Raleigh--Social life and customs | African Americans--New York (State)--New York--Social life and customs | African Americans--Segregation--North Carolina--Raleigh | African Americans--Segregation--New York (State)--New York | United States--Race relations | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People | Raleigh (N.C.) | Wake County (N.C.) | New York (State) | New York (N.Y.)
Collection:Oral Histories of the American South: The Civil Rights Movement
Institution:Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Contributors:Southern Oral History Program | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project) | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library | Oral histories of the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project))
Online Publisher:[Chapel Hill, N.C.] : University Library, UNC-Chapel Hill. | 2007
Original Material:

Title from menu page (viewed on Nov. 28, 2008).

Interview participants: Lemuel Delany, interviewee; Esther Delany, interviewee; Mrs. Delany, interviewee; Kimberly Hill, interviewer.

Duration: 01:33:44.

This electronic edition is part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South. It is a part of the collection Oral histories of the American South.

Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner. Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers.

Related Materials:

Forms part of Oral histories of the American South collection.

Persistent Link to Item:http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/R-0346/menu.html